Benzie County Rail Trails
Presented by the Michigan State Historical Preservation Office
Saturday, June 19, 2021 - 2:00pm (Rain or Shine)
Benzie County is rich with history of a time long past. With our maritime and railroad roots, locals and visitors can visit historical sites of significance.
All Aboard!! Benzie County was once home to four railroad lines. The Manistee & Northeastern, the Empire & Southeastern, the Ann Arbor, and the Pere Marquette / Chicago & West Michigan. While many of the tracks have been removed, miles of trail still remain for public use. The Lake Ann Pathway, the Pere Marquette Forest Trail & Betsie Valley Trail are a few examples of how the old railroad lines have been repurposed for use as walking, hiking, biking, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and equestrian trails.
For those that need a bit more nostalgia, many buildings and relics still reside throughout the county. While some structures only remain as ruins, some have been rebuilt or replicated and still stand today.
Whether you are up for a drive or just exploring miles of trails, Benzie County has plenty of railroad stories to tell. Stop by the Benzie Area Historical Society for an in-depth look at the history and development of the rail system or the nearby Kaleva Depot Museum. And remember, Take the Time….Make It Benzie!
The Beulah Depot once was a stop on the Ann Arbor line. The original depot fell into disrepair and was demolished. In 2005, a replica was built in a nearby location for use as the Village of Beulah Welcome Center and Trailhead for the Betsie Valley Trail system. The Beulah Bridge is located on the Betsie Valley Trail system near the Crystal Lake Outlet.
Elberta, being a key point in the rail line for car ferry service, is home to several railroad ruins. Ruins of the former Roundhouse, Turntable, and Ferry dock are still visible in the Waterfront Park. The former Elberta Depot / Life Saving Station has been converted into an event venue available for rentals.
Nothing is more iconic to our area than the Gateway Arch to the City of Frankfort. Built in 1925, and relocated to its present location in 1938, the Arch has undergone several upgrades and facelifts over the years, but the replica of the City of Green Bay car ferry still remains.
Passengers, lumber, and potatoes once took passage through the village of Lake Ann. The rail system was discontinued, the tracks removed, and the depot torn down in the mid 1930s. Some of the main path through the Pere Marquette Forest is still remains in the form of the Lake Ann Pathway and is accessible by hiking, biking or nordic skiing.
Thompsonville, formerly a booming lumber town is still home to the historical Diamond Crossing. A major junction for the Pere Marquette and Ann Arbor lines, the switch was completed in 1889 to provide rail service from Chicago & Toledo to Frankfort for both freight and passengers. The Diamond Crossing rails were moved to their current location in the mid 1980’s to the Village Park. Also in the Village Park is the Thompsonville Junction Caboose, a historical 30’ Steel Cupola Caboose that is now used as a trailhead for the Betsie Valley Trail system. Diamond Crossings was given a Historical Marker by the State of Michigan’s Michigan History Center in October 2020.